Thomas Eakins (1844-1916)

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Thomas Eakins: A Motion Portrait
About Thomas Eakins
December 2, 2001

“I never knew of but one artist, and this is Tom Eakins, who could resist the temptation to see what they think ought to be rather than what is.” – Walt Whitman

When Thomas Eakins died in 1916, he left behind a body of work unprecedented in American art for its depth, strength, perception, character, and commitment to realism. Yet during his life, Eakins sold less than thirty paintings. Rejected by the public and the art establishment of his day, it was only after his death that a new generation of scholars and critics recognized Eakins as one of America’s greatest painters.

Born in 1844, Thomas Eakins lived most of his life in his home city of Philadelphia. After graduating high school he attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He simultaneously took anatomy courses at Jefferson Medical College, in the hopes of creating more realistic pictures and gaining further insight into the human figure. In 1866 he left Philadelphia for Paris and later Spain, where he studied art and found the works of painters Diego Velásquez and Jusepe de Ribera. Along with Rembrant, these painters would be his greatest influences. A year later he returned to Philadelphia, never to go abroad again.

Throughout the 1870s Eakins painted the interior and exterior life of everyday America. He was concerned with the functioning of the physical world, as well as the inner lives of the people he painted. His paintings were both realistic and expressive. His attention to light, landscape, and the human form made Eakins stand far above his contemporaries. Among the most famous paintings of the time are his group portraits made at medical schools. Striking in their honesty and strict attention paid to the details of the human body, they shocked many in and out of the art world.

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In the 1880s, Eakins’ interest in realism brought him in contact with the photographer Edward Muybridge. The two collaborated on photographing the movement of animals and humans. Though few painters took it seriously, Eakins believed the new photographic technology was a tool to better represent the physical world. Throughout much of the 1880s, Eakins brought these interests to students at the Pennsylvania Academy, encouraging them to study anatomy and work from live nude models. In 1886 his insistence on the use of nude models saw a great deal of criticism. Frustrated with the criticism, he eventually resigned.

Though he continued to teach at a number of different colleges, it wasn’t until long after his death that Eakins’ innovations in art education were recognized and adopted throughout the country. By the 1890s he had moved from his earlier outdoor works like “Max Schmitt in a Single Scull,” (1871), a perfectly rendered quiet picture of a rower on the Schuylkill River, to portraiture. In the many portraits completed over the last thirty years of his life, Eakins retained his passionate adherence to realist representation. Unlike most other portrait painters of the time, Eakins had little concern for flattering his subjects , and instead demanded from himself the most precise objective images. The results were thorough and telling portraits that seemed to carry with them the souls of their subjects.

During the final years of his life, Eakins began to receive a bit of the recognition he deserved. On June 25, 1916 he died in the Philadelphia home in which he was born. Against social demands for propriety and respectability, Eakins refused to compromise and painted his subjects as they really were, and not as they wished to be seen. His paintings reflected the passing of time, the awareness of mortality, and the nobility of everyday life. His courageous persistence in advocating his personal vision changed the nature of art education and provided future generations with a deeper view of the time in which he lived.

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/thomas-eakins-about-thomas-eakins/581/

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Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904)

A series of photographs showing a horse galloping by Eadweard Muybridge (1830 - 1904)

Muybridge first photographed the human figure in motion on March 4th 1879. However, he did not focus on the human body until his contract at Pennsylvania University began in May 1884, resulting in two volumes of work dedicated to photographs of human subjects.

This extensive work depicted men, women and children variously running, jumping, falling and carrying out athletic or mundane activities. This section of Muybridge’s work reiterates the imperative Muybridge felt to explore time in modernity, as explored here through ‘Animals in Motion’. However, it also depicts, and perhaps helps consolidate a specifically American set of contemporary aspirations and ideals surrounding identity at Pennsylvania University.

As discussed in ‘Foreign Bodies’, the 19th Century in North America embodied strict racial hierarchies which helped unite the ‘civilized’ democratic world as a team, whilst validating the occupation of Native American Land. But this hierarchy was not only produced through the negative representation of non-western people. Racial ideals were configured for a new generation of western individuals too. And just as photography helped define non-western stereotypes it helped inscribe a new set of aspirations for westerners.

In his motion photography, Muybridge only used one non-white model – Ben Bailey – a mixed race male. Interestingly, Muybridge never used an anthropometric grid behind his subjects until he photographed Bailey, and never photographed the human figure without one afterwards (Brown, 2005 p637).

As Brown states, anthropometric grids were commonly used in 19th Century ethnographic photography to make objective studies of non-western bodies: highlighting physical differences which had grown to signify a lack of civilization to the western eye. Grids were particularly useful in this way as they gave photographic work the ‘aesthetic of science – dispassionate, orderly, coherent’ (Solnit, 2003, p195) which helped boost the truth-value of the photograph, and therefore helped inscribe racial stereotypes.

Gridded photographs of Ben Bailey helped situate him as ‘a racialised object’, reinforcing common negative stereotypes of the time surrounding primitivism and hyper-virility through his particularly muscular frame (Brown, p638). Conversely, Muybridge’s photographs of white males helped define a new positive set of ideals surrounding masculinity. These males were athletic, but not so overtly muscular, and represented a wider societal desire for young white males to achieve both intellectual and physical excellence; itself a subversion of stereotypes born from the previous generation of American intellectuals, who had suffered widely from neurasthenia.

Bailey thus provided a frighteningly exaggerated version of the physical ideal, whereas Muybridge’s white male subjects – mostly students and athletes from Pennsylvania University – represented a balanced version of this new aspiration for the next generation of American intellectual leaders. Pictures of men engaged in sporting events including fencing and boxing, as well as other physical activities such as hammering and lathing helped reinforce the dimensions of this new ideal masculinity – competitive, athletic and physically as well as intellectually able.

Just as ideals of maleness were embodied by Muybridge’s photography, so were images of femininity. These were more traditionally entrenched, but persuasive nonetheless. Women were pictured in graceful, domestic or maternal stances – and as is often the case in artistic representation, displayed for the viewer in representations far more sexualized than any pragmatic male nudity: often erring towards fantasy (Cresswell, 2006, p65)

Therefore white male athletic bodies and female sexualized domestic bodies represented racial stereotypes and social hierarchies just as clearly as images of Ben Bailey. Indeed, these were ideals consolidated by a final set of human bodies represented by Muybridge’s motion studies, those of disabled people – represented in a particularly scientistic and objective manner.

The plain contrast between medical abnormality and the physical ideal represented by this work clearly illustrates the 19th century trend of racial and bodily hierarchy Muybridge’s work functioned within. We might find this horrifying now, but we must not blame Muybridge for his sensibilities. A man of his time, Muybridge is an essential orator for the world he inhabited.

Select Bibliography

Brown, Elspeth H. ‘Racialising the Virile Body: Eadweard Muybridge’s Locomotion Studies 1883-1887. In Gender and History Vol 17 no 3 Nov 2005 pp627-656.

Cresswell ,Tim ‘Capturing mobility: mobility and meaning in the photography of Eadweard Muybridge and Etienne-Jules Marey’ On the Move (New York Routledge 2006)

Foucault, Michel Society Must Be Defended (London, Penguin, 2003)

Hargreaves, Roger The Beautiful and the Damned: the Creation of Identity in Nineteenth Century Photography (Hampshire, Lund Humphries 2001)

Poole, Deborah Vision, Race and Modernity (New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 1997)

Solnit, Rebecca Motion Studies: Time, Space and Eadweard Muybridge. (London: Bloomsbury, 2003)

http://www.eadweardmuybridge.co.uk

Lorna Simpson

The daughter of…, 2015
collage, and ink on paper 30 x 22 inches (76.2 x 55.9 cm) unframed 30.25 x 23.6 inches (76.8 x 59.4 cm) framed

The daughter of…, 2015 (detail)
collage, and ink on paper 30 x 22 inches (76.2 x 55.9 cm) unframed 30.25 x 23.6 inches (76.8 x 59.4 cm) framed

Artist Lorna Simpson Returns to Her Favorite Subject—Hair—With Exclusive New Works
Mackenzie Wagoner’s picture
MARCH 31, 2016 3:25 PM
by MACKENZIE WAGONER

In a video currently playing in the Art Institute of Chicago’s “Nothing Personal” exhibition, two women silently and simultaneously perform their morning rituals, their skin-care and makeup routines and hairstyles providing clues to their social roles, their place and time. The work is by New York–based artist Lorna Simpson, who has spent much of her nearly 40-year career exploring visual identity—namely the language of hair. Take, for example, Wigs, where a long blond tumble of curls hangs bodiless on a white backdrop, nearby a stretch of braid is neatly coiled just below a frothy cloud of disembodied afro; or Twenty Questions, which features four gelatin silver prints of an obsidian bob shining against equally dark skin and the collar of a soft white tank top—between each image, plaques propose interpretations, from “Is she as pretty as a picture” to “or sharp as a razor.”

From the sprays of updos in Stereo Styles to the chronologically organized ropes of braids in 1978–88, Simpson seems to suggest that if we wear our history, it’s on top of our heads. From birth, the texture and color of our hair alone speak volumes about centuries of heritage, while length and style become culturally coded symbols of sex, location, musical preferences, and professions. “Hair is a cipher of identity,” said Simpson over the phone recently, speaking about her fascination with the material. “I had questions about representation and what we learn about the subject.”

They are questions she leaves open-ended. Without a voice and often faceless, Simpson’s portraits instead confront us, the audience, with our own preconceived notions about race and gender as they’re tied to beauty, a theme that became more prominent in her later collage work, in which found photographs of anonymous African American women (and occasionally men) were stripped of their original coifs and surrounded, instead, by swirls of Simpson’s free-form ink paintings that she has likened to Rorschach tests. There, the forward-facing gazes seem to ask, “Who do you think I am?” and “Why?”


Ultra Violet 1, 2015
collage, and ink on paper 14.6 x 18.5 inches (37.1 x 47 cm) unframed 19.25 x 15.4 x 1.5 (48.9 x 39.7 x 4 cm) inches framed


Tulip, 2014
collage, and ink on paper 30 x 22 inches (76.2 x 55.9 cm) unframed 30.25 x 23.6 inches (76.8 x 59.4 cm) framed

Now, her subjects are more liberated than ever. Above, in a new exclusive series for Vogue.com, Simpson has lifted the faces of 12 women from “very mundane” ’60s and ’70s advertisements in Ebony magazine—the culture and politics monthly she grew up with that “informed my sense of thinking about being black in America”—and paired them with illustrations of geological and astrological forms from a 1931 textbook. Stripped of any fundamental context, the women provide no origin story and no identifying characteristics. The geometric shapes replacing their hair weren’t chosen for their resemblance to, say, Nefertiti’s crown or Erykah Badu’s emerald head wrap—references that may spring to mind as you look at them—but rather for the same reason you might cut, color, or change the texture of your hair: simply because, says Simpson, “I thought they were beautiful.”

https://www.vogue.com

http://www.lsimpsonstudio.com

Idris Khan

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The World of Perception, 2010
digital c-print, 97-7/8 x 77-3/4 inches (framed)

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The World of Perception, 2010 – detail
digital c-print, 97-7/8 x 77-3/4 inches (framed)

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every… Nicholas Nixon’s Brown Sisters, 2004
digital C-print, 43-1/4 x 52-1/8 inches (framed)

Idris Khan transforms the conceptual art of appropriation into an elegant and substantial meditation on the act of creativity. Appropriating icons of literature, music, and art, Khan methodically layers his material, whether it is Beethoven’s symphony, Milton’s Paradise Lost, or Bernd and Hilla Becher’s stylized sculpture of water towers. The process allows the artist to tease out certain areas adjusting the source material so that the soul of the piece is manifested in Khan’s accreted interpretation. For example, in Struggling to Hear… After Ludwig van Beethoven Sonatas, 2005, Beethoven’s entire series of sonatas becomes a dense wall of near blackness; a virtual illustration of the composer’s deafness.

Khan’s work tests our experience of these other art forms; words and music are experienced sequentially, however the artist compresses time visually. Photographic iconography such as Bernd and Hilla Becher’s water tower series—a body of work based on the inherent nature of recurring form—layer upon one another and ultimately create a ghostly animation describing the ‘essence’ of the form rather than each individual tower.

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every…William Turner postcard from Tate Britain, 2004
47-1/2 x 62-1/4 inches (framed)

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every… Bernd and Hilla Becher Prison Type Gasholder, 2004
80 x 65 inches

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Born in Birmingham in 1978, Khan lives and works in London. Solo exhibitions of his work have been mounted at the Gothenburg Konsthall, Sweden (2011), the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (2009), and K20, Düsseldorf (2008). His work has been exhibited at Forum d’art Contemporain, Luxembourg (2008), the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (2006), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2006), and the Helsinki Kunsthalle (2005). His work is included in the collections of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Centre Pompidou, Paris, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City, among others. Most recently, Khan was commissioned to design a permanent public monument for the new Memorial Park in Abu Dhabi. The sculpture will be unveiled in late November 2016.

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Caravaggio… The final years, 2006. 101” x 68”

https://fraenkelgallery.com

Richard Prince

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Instagram, an artist and the $100,000 selfies – appropriation in the digital age
Richard Prince has turned borrowing online images into high art – and hard cash. But is the artist’s work anything other than genius trolling?
Hannah Jane Parkinson, Saturday 18 July 2015 05.00 EDT

It’s a question as old as art itself: “Yeah, but is it art?”

Type it into Google and get 1.26 billion results. It lends itself to book titles, television series and conversations between white walls, whetted by prosecco.

It’s a question asked of a shark in formaldehyde; an unmade bed; a sleeping footballer; two humans meeting in silence across a table, and before those of John Cage; Mondrian; Pollock.

This question, the distant cousin of “my kid could have done that”, has quietly endured.

The decibel levels rise, however, when it comes to appropriation. Appropriation is the practice of artists taking already existing objects and using them, with little alteration, in their own works. The objects could be functional, everyday objects, or elements of other art pieces; commercial advertising material, newspaper cuttings or street debris. Anything, really.

It’s interesting, though, that some appropriation in art is seen as acceptable in the public consciousness, some not. Warhol: of course. Sampling at the birth of hip-hop – well, sure. Found object art like Duchamp’s Fountain? Hmm.

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Richard Prince and the art of ‘rephotographing’
Richard Prince is a New York-based artist famous for appropriation. His work relies heavily on the work of others. Not all of his pieces or projects are appropriated, but his most famous pieces owe their existence to the technique.

Take, for instance, Prince’s “rephotographing” of Marlboro cigarette advertisements, specifically those featuring the Marlboro Man (originally shot by Sam Abell). The series, entitled – and some might say, appropriately – Cowboys, began in the 1980s. A more recent piece from the series (2000) sold for more than $3m (£1.9m) at a 2014 Sotheby’s auction.

There’s a rather brilliant PDN interview, in 2008, with Abell, who speaks about Prince’s appropriation of his photographs. At the beginning of the interview, Abell states: “I’m not angry, of course”. He then speaks for three minutes, getting angrier and angrier.

I’m not particularly amused … it’s obviously plagiarism, and I was taught by my parents the sin of that … it seems to be breaking the golden rule … he has to live with that.”

Abell’s Marlboro photographs are not the only pictures to be repurposed by Prince. In 2014, Prince settled a three-year-long copyright case with the photographer Patrick Cariou after the former used Cariou’s Yes, Rasta, a book on the rastafarian community, as part of his Canal Zone series. He’s also been known to hand out copies of A Catcher in the Rye with his own name on the cover.

Now, Prince is back in the spotlight. His current exhibition – New Portraits – opened in June at the Gagosian gallery in London, having debuted in New York in 2014.

The portraits, however, are not new to everyone – and certainly not new to their subjects.

This is because Prince’s New Portraits series comprises entirely of the Instagram photos of others. The only element of alteration comes in the form of bizarre, esoteric, lewd, emoji-annotated comments made beneath the pictures by Prince.

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Prince’s pieces sold for up to $100,000 (£63,700) at New York’s Frieze art fair, according to CNN. This might not sound a lot, given the prices fetched for oher artists’ works at the Sotheby’s and Christie’s auctions in London this month – including $32.1m (£20.9m) for a Warhol painting of a $1 bill – but it is what mothers around the world would call “better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick”.

As collaborations go, if Jay-Z and Beyonce duetting represents a bringing together of the best of hip-hop and R&B, and Scorsese, Nicholson and DiCaprio a filmmaking supergroup, then Richard Prince and the internet are an appropriation dream team.

So it is that one of the oldest questions (“but is it art?”) collides with one of the most pressing, current global debates: that of online privacy and ownership in the digital age.

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continue reading on www.theguardian.com

Barbara Kruger

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Barbara Kruger
Untitled (Your body is a battleground), 1989
photographic silkscreen on vinyl
112 x 112 in. (284.48 x 284.48 cm), The Broad

Barbara Kruger addresses media and politics in their native tongue: tabloid, sensational, authoritative, and direct. Kruger’s words and images merge the commercial and art worlds; their critical resonance eviscerates cultural hierarchies — everyone and everything is for sale. The year 1989 was marked by numerous demonstrations protesting a new wave of antiabortion laws chipping away at the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. Untitled (Your body is a battleground) was produced by Kruger for the Women’s March on Washington in support of reproductive freedom. The woman’s face, disembodied, split in positive and negative exposures, and obscured by text, marks a stark divide. This image is simultaneously art and protest. Though its origin is tied to a specific moment, the power of the work lies in the timelessness of its declaration.

About Barbara Kruger
The large, bold artworks of Barbara Kruger assimilate words and images from the deluge of contemporary mass media. Employing media effects and strategies, Kruger creates her own sexual, social, and political messages, challenging the stereotypical ways mass media influences society’s notions about gender roles, social relationships, and political issues.

Untitled (Your body is a battleground), 1989, exemplifies Kruger’s interest in addressing and interpreting heated political issues of the moment. Using a silkscreened frontal photograph of a model’s face, the artist gives the image additional meaning by dividing the large canvas it occupies into sections; from left to right, the bisected image reverses from positive to negative, and from top to bottom, the face is divided by the emblazoned slogan “Your body is a battleground.” Kruger critiques the objectified standard of symmetry that is applied to feminine beauty and perpetuated by media and advertising. The composition originally included more text and was designed as a poster for the massive pro-choice rally that took place on April 9, 1989, in Washington, D.C.

Untitled (If you’re so successful, why do you feel like a fake?), 1987, is a direct interrogation of the motivations of contemporary society—career building, money, and the appearance of success and good living. Kruger’s assertive display demands an answer from viewers. Unlike in advertising, which may ask a question to compel a purchase, Kruger’s work uses the same techniques to compel ethical change and reflection.

http://www.thebroad.org

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John Baldessari

John Baldessari exhibit "Pure Beauty" press preview. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California, USA. June 23, 2010. Photo: ©2010 Isaac Hernandez/IsaacHernandez.com

John Baldessari exhibit “Pure Beauty” press preview. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California, USA. June 23, 2010. Photo: ©2010 Isaac Hernandez/IsaacHernandez.com

Artist John Baldessari, 82, poses for a portrait at Marian Goodman Gallery where he is exhibiting "Installation Works, 1987-1989" in New York City on June 26th, 2013. Baldessari will also have his first show in Moscow at The Garage CCC in September. CREDIT: Bryan Derballa for Financial Times

Artist John Baldessari, 82, poses for a portrait at Marian Goodman Gallery where he is exhibiting “Installation Works, 1987-1989” in New York City on June 26th, 2013. Baldessari will also have his first show in Moscow at The Garage CCC in September. CREDIT: Bryan Derballa for Financial Times